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The Top Gear car review:Audi A4 Avant
For:Arch-modern cabin, big space, superb refinement
Against:Inert to drive, can quickly get pricey, not much else really
What we say:
Bigger, more refined, better. new Avant takes fight to the Merc C-Class estate
What is it?
The estate version of the new Audi A4 saloon, or, it you prefer, a five-seater family car with a big boot that’s not a crossover. It’ll never catch on. Anyway. This new A4 Avant is much bigger than its predecessor, to the benefit of interior space. It’s only available as a cooking A4 right now, but a hotter S4 is imminent and an RS4 is already in the pipeline - both with twin-turbo setups.
It’s launched hot on the heels of the saloon model and is expected to vie with the four-door in terms of sales here in the UK. It seems everyone loves a premium estate.
Audi isn’t afraid to admit that it’s not gone after driver-gratifying brownie points with the front- or all-wheel drive A4. This car is purposefully not as endearing to drive quickly as a BMW 3-Series or a Jaguar XE. But it is more refined than both, much more comfortable than brittle A4s of old, and a supremely unruffled way of moving about. The lack of wind, road and engine noise is uncanny, and if you had to do tens of thousands of motorway miles per year, not caring about the last word in chassis balance when you used the sliproads at either end, there’s a lot to be said for the A4’s effortless everyday manners in place of its absent GSoH.
At this stage, engines are entirely familiar and predictable, focused naturally around the 2.0-litre TDI. It’s now almost uncannily smooth and you can get it in both front- and quattro all-wheel drive. Choose the ones branded ‘ultra’ for best economy.
On the inside
Step inside and you’d forgive the A4 if it told bad jokes. The build quality is irreproachable. The ergonomics are spot on. It’s airy, spacious, crammed with technology that’s utterly intuitive to use, and as we’ve said, barely disturbed by unwanted noise once underway. The 26mm increase in length is mostly enjoyed in the rear seats (which claim to offer more room than anything else in the class) and the 505-litre boot. The obvious BMW and Mercedes rivals, although neither is exactly cramped, can’t muster more than 500 litres. Flip the seats down (a doddle, via one catch) and you have 1,510 litres. Wheelarch intrusion is respectable, and there’s an optional hands free auto-open/close bootlid.
Of course, the big seller will be the 2.0 TDIs, which we’ve driven in the saloon versions and found to be perfectly reasonable if not exactly memorable cars. The 3.0 TDI V6 quattro is a remarkably tractable rival to a BMW 335d xDrive, though its £40,350 base price is likely to become a distant memory as soon as the options list has been tackled. For example, like the Virtual Cockpit dials below? £450, please. The fastest A4 money can currently buy will give up to 53.3mpg and 139g/km, which are alarmingly good figures given the swift, easy-access performance on offer.